Dear Aunt Babz,
My 25 year old daughter moved back home with my husband and me after living out-of-state for the past 2 years. She's working on her PhD and we agreed she could live with us for one year while she worked on her dissertation. Her target date to receive her degree is either Dec 2008 or May 2009. While we agreed on a $300/month rent, we did not draw up a formal lease like we did when she used to live with us. She has a part-time teaching job at a women's college and received some scholarship and grant monies so she does have income, albeit not a huge amount.
The problem is boundaries. She lives in the basement which is very spacious and private. She likes to nap in our living room on the main floor and watch TV in the kitchen while snacking. She doesn't straighten up the couch or the table after she's done and we find we wash up her dishes or put her things away because she gets very defensive and argumentative. She likes to get into arguments with her dad and can be very annoying with sing-song, baby talk, or talking inappropriately. For example, every day she'll say things like her "scallop reeks" (referring to her scalp) or that her stools are "fudgy" and that our dog is a "rancid-emu-piglet." For the most part her father ignores her. Because he's from another country, she likes to say things specifically to me that she knows he doesn't "get." Often she'll flap her arms and prance around obviously for the attention. We have a little dog she's fond of that she gets too close to until he growls.
When we've addressed our concerns and frustrations, she likes to drag out old issues. She will say we're picking on her, being hypercritical, or will mock us. You see, we dealt with problems with her behavior from the time she was 13 until 19 that required treatment which included meds, counseling and group homes. She was very resentful about what she had to endure and is still carrying around a lot of emotional baggage.
Her main diagnoses was anxiety,depression and low self-esteem, issues which I hoped she'd "grow out of." Her behavior was so explosive around 17 that we worried she'd even graduate from high school (so many of her friends dropped out). Well, she did and then some. She went to college, worked hard, got her bachelors, 2 masters and now is working towards her doctorate. We're very proud of her achievements but she insists on downplaying them and says we played and still play favorites with her older brother who is 30, married and a doctor.
When I suggest she pay for her own groceries ( those things only she likes to eat ) or pay for her own meals when we go out to eat, she gets upset and says she's not making much and that she's already paying us $300 she "can't afford" and that we didn't charge her brother while he was living at home and going to medical school. She makes a lot of excuses as to why she can't do this or that or seems to want us to feel guilty.
Now, her "Dr. Jekyll" side is when she goes out to her teaching job or visits colleagues because she dresses up nicely, acts appropriately, and writes brilliantly (she does book reviews and writes impressively). She's given lectures and participated in conferences. She has no deep friends at all and just hangs at home with us. I'm afraid that come next July she will say she's not gotten her degree yet and will want to extend her stay with us. I'm also afraid that our relationship is becoming more strained. Why don't I "evict" her? I guess part of me is afraid of her "dark evils" that are apparently still bothering her, problems she's never overcome. I've suggested she get counseling to deal with the anxieties and depression but she's convinced it's worthless. I don't want to push her over the edge but she's pushing us closer to ours.
"Losing Our Marbles."
Dear Losing Our Marbles,
I can feel the frustration level here, loud and clear. I think it's rather justified too, I might add. But even in situations, such as this, there are answers and compromise, to be found. Let's see if we can't find some semblance of solvency.
Have you ever noticed, quite often, that some of the most brilliant minds, have very little common sense? I can't fathom it but I see it every day, a million times over, a million examples. I don't know? You either have common sense or you don't? Then, I suppose, those of us with some common sense must often times, escort those, without, through life? Is your daughter one of those not blessed with good ol' common sense?
It sounds to me, that your daughter is certainly, a success, in many ways. I can tell you are very proud of her, rightfully so. It also sounds to me, that in some areas, her maturity level is lacking, though? At the same time, even you know her capabilities, concerning appropriate behavior. I mean, you've mentioned how well she presents, when in a studious fashion, business like and professional. So, it leaves me to believe that she behaves that way because she chooses to and feels she can. Maybe, somehow, we need to change her perception of what she can and can not do, at least whilst in your home.
Yes, let me remind you that it is your home and you are being generous, by allowing her to live there. We owe our children nothing but love, teaching of faith, values and beliefs, shelter and food, until such time as they become an adult. No, we don't owe them a college education or shelter costs, etc. or it'd be a law. Then, if it was a law, it'd be negligence, if we didn't send them or help out, concerning that education. My point is that, there's a strong possibility that she has a somewhat sense of entitlement, as to what you "owe" her. She obviously does not, realize the gift you have given, by trying to make it easier, on her, to obtain that education. Surely, she does not see, just how fortunate she is, to have that support. I employed many, many college students, struggling to make ends meet. I watched, first hand, as they had to juggle, almost full time positions and their education. So, how can we make her aware, of her good fortune and to appreciate it?
Pull Up Your Eyebrows
I'd like to slip in an awareness of perception, first though, an observation, I'd like you to look closely at and then we'll move on...
Familiarity breeds contempt, doesn't it? It's not easy, living with anyone, not even your own spouse. Couple that with a daughter who walks on air, oblivious to her attitude, lack of good form and that good ol' common sense and you have the breeding ground for an all scale war, in the mix. You've come to the point where she's got on your last nerve with her baby talk, innuendo's and escalating argumentative attitude. But in all fairness, remember, if you are looking for fault, you will find it. Even if you don't mean to, everything she does at this point, probably drives you nuts. She's invaded your territory, rather sloppily, I might add and you may have to just address the whole shabang, in tandem. The building resentment is not healthy for you. Eventually, you'll say or do something, you may regret. Let's nip it in the bud.
I always write about putting your problematic prose on paper. Anytime I felt overwhelmed by a situation that I knew I would have difficulty addressing, I would begin to write it all down, how I felt, what I wanted from the situation and so forth. You have a captive audience and are able to say what needs to be said, with calculating accuracy. When you give the person the letter, all is said without you being cut off, from what you are trying to say, as well, the conflict is not escalated or made worse, right?
I would begin this letter, by making it very clear that you love your daughter and can not say just how proud you are of her. You'll make it clear to her, that this is why you are helping her because you want her to be successful. Then, you tell her that it is your duty as a Mother to inform her, to be honest and to say what needs to be said. I will remind you again, that this is your home. Your home has been disrupted by her behavior and lack of sensitivity to certain situations. You give her the basic requests, which are actually the ground rules but you've worded it in a manner that is not offensive or condescending, right? You'll let he know that she is an adult and must respect your home and be mindful of cleaning up after herself. It's the little things that can often matter and like wise, those little things can build big bonfires, if let go.
It's all a matter of respect. Mutual respect. No, you don't need to evict her just set the stage for how things will go in your home, that's it, that's all. Ask her how she would feel, if you came down and trashed her room or her home, left things strewn about, as if the maid was coming. It's just a clear cut case of a lack of respect. Then, you ask her if this was what she was trying to convey? If she does respect her Father and yourself, she'll be and behave in a respectful manner in your home.
On a final note, I would love to see you, walk away from at least some of that guilt, you carry, for your daughter. None of us have it great coming up. I was abused and I was not always a good Mother, myself. All we can do, is when we are made aware of something we've done wrong, either by their admission or our own, we will be big enough to apologize, a heart felt apology and learn from it. Be aware that she is using guilt to keep you in check. Don't let her do it anymore. You are doing both of you a huge disservice by allowing it to go on. It's not truthful emotion, it's not healthy and it's not fair. Your daughter needs to count her blessings and be grateful for what she has, has had and will have because of your sacrifice. Remember this.
Duty as mother is;